Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“He Leads Me!” (Psalm 23:2-3)

S-1441 6SAP/3A 7/20/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #711; (C) #718 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 44:6-8; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Theme: “He Leads Me!” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Question: “Have you ever been led?” 3rd in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Precious little lambs let me ask you: Have you ever been led before? There are leaders all around us. They can either lead us for good or for bad. Has anyone ever held your hand and led you across the street? Has anyone led you astray, like daring you to take your first drink, smoke your first cigarette, shoplift, lie or cuss? There are so many things that can lead us astray and we need to be careful who we follow as our leader.

When David wrote Psalm 23 about 3,000 years ago, he was probably thinking about his own life as a shepherd.  He was having exactly the same experience as the shepherds in Palestine today. With the words of our text, David helps us to look at our caring, gentle, loving and faithful Good Shepherd who leads us to where we need to go. He is the One who guides our every step and direct our every move. He is the One who knows the way that leads to eternal life.

This Shepherd leads us gently, lovingly and joyfully. He is not oppressive or demanding. He leads both by word and by action. He is not One who pushes or drives into submission but in humility calls our names to follow Him. He never demands His way He just teaches us the truth.

Few years back, a group of tourists were traveling in the Holy Land. The tour guide was speaking and said, “You should know that many Palestinians are shepherds and if you are lucky you may get to see a shepherd with his flock. Please pay attention. You will notice that a shepherd never drives his sheep he always leads them!

No sooner had he finished talking and the people began to look outside the bus at a shepherd with a big stick behind some sheep. Every tourist had a big grin on their faces. When the guide noticed what they were looking at, said, “Folks, there is something wrong here! This can’t be.” He requested the bus driver to pull over and the guide got out to speak with the shepherd. Few moments later and the guide came back to the bus with a smile on his face and said: “Well, I was right. He is not a shepherd. He is the butcher taking the sheep to the slaughter!PAUSE.

The devil wants to lead us to the slaughter, and the prison of hell. But, Jesus, the faithful Good Shepherd does not drive us with a big stick; no He leads us in tenderness and gentleness. Jesus the Good Shepherd is not like many other leaders who demand that they be respected and followed. No, He in love cares for us so much that He leads gently and lovingly.

As His little lambs, we need God the Good Shepherd to watch out for us because we can get ourselves into trouble. Just like sheep needs to be watched and guided; so do we. Our God, the faithful Good Shepherd, leads us to green pastures and still waters.  On our own, we have no idea where those things are:  Green pastures and still waters are the spiritual food and water we need to have to live in this dry and dreary desert.  By faith, the Holy Spirit grants us the will to trust the Good Shepherd who leads us to those places because He knows where they are.

In the Northern part of Palestine/Israel, it’s easy to see where the food and water is, it’s so green and lush. However, the farther south you travel, the more you wonder, how do sheep and shepherds cope in the desert?  There is not much food or water there.  There is not much of anything there but rocks!  But since you and I are not shepherds, we don’t know where to look.  But the shepherds do. There are springs of water in the desert, sometimes cisterns where the shepherds have collected rainwater in the winter, little patches of grass near these places, and the shepherds lead their flocks to these location to give them what they need—water and food to quench their thirst and fill their stomachs.

Our Faithful Good Shepherd knows where to take us.  He has shown us the path. He has said, “I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). By the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we follow Him because He has gone before us; and will lead us to the living water and the green pastures. Without the caring, loving and faithful Shepherd, we would be in big trouble.  But God in mercy and love will take you to the place where you can be refreshed and supplied.

The faithful Good Shepherd does not lead us year by year, or day by day; but step by step. He shows us the path to follow. Our Lord directs our steps. We don’t know tomorrow’s plans. We only know this minute. But He says to each and every one of us, “This is the way by faith follow Me and know I am leading you to a far better place than you can imagine!” And I, as His little lamb, am so thankful that He does with gentleness and tenderness. PAUSE.

What a beautiful image David paints for us of the leading Good Shepherd. He put it this way: He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. David uses two different Hebrew words for lead. In verse 3 he uses a word that has the sense of gently helping along the weak, disabled, or sick; and in verse 4 he uses a different word, which means to lead or guide.  Though they are different words they both have the care, love and gentleness of the faithful shepherd. It is the same word used in Exodus as the Lord leads the Israelites out of bondage to the Promised Land.

This Shepherd—the Good One, Jesus Christ, knows all too well about being led. Isaiah said it this way: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7). He knows about being led all too well. He was led from the Garden of Gethsemane by the High Priest’s soldiers. He was led in the middle of the night to the kangaroo court. He was led the next morning to see Pilate. He was led a little later to see King Herod. He was led back to Pilate and then He was led carrying the heavy cross to Calvary. And from the cross of Calvary He was led to the burial site. Yes, He knows what it means to be led.

All of this Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep did for you and me—His little lambs. He could have stopped them from leading Him, but He chose not to, to fulfill God’s promise to deliver all of God’s little lambs from the eternal punishment of hell. He didn’t have to be led, but with joyful heart, He allowed others to lead Him as the author to the Hebrew put it: “… looking to Jesus, the founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame… He permitted all of this to happen to Him, to spare your life and mine from the one who wants to slaughter us and imprison us in hell forever.

But why is this leading done? David gives us the answer: He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. For His name’s sake He leads us, tenderly, lovingly and faithfully. Now the adventure starts – God is taking us somewhere.  It would have been nice to stay in the green pastures by the still waters, but we’re moving.  There are forces out to get us that we have no control over – and may not even know about.  Nature is full of predators, and humans are no different from any other animal.  We need protection!  Maybe even from each other!  So God leads us in the right paths… for His name’s sake – not for our name’s sake, but for His.  God has to be known as the One who will take care of us – God has a reputation to uphold, for the sake of His name.

That is why, we, His little lamb should know His voice and heed it. And that is why while Jesus was on the earth taught us in the Lord’s Prayer saying: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil one.” Because there are many who would lead us astray, and even us.

I am reminded of the preacher and the little boy: The story goes like this: A pastor was riding his bike downtown. On the way he meets a young boy riding a mower and the pastor asked “What are you doing?” The boy responded, “I’m trying to get some mowing jobs so I can buy a bicycle.” The preacher said, “I tell you what. I am in the market for a mower and you need a bike, how about if we trade?” The boy said that is a good deal. The preacher took the mower home and went into the house. When he came out to mow the lawn, the mower wouldn’t start. So he called the boy and said, “The mower doesn’t run!” The boy responded, “You will have to cuss at it.” The pastor said, “I don’t cuss!” The boy giggled and said, “You pull on that string long enough and you will cuss!” PAUSE.

The world, our sinful flesh, the devil and even some churches are out to lead us astray. But Jesus the caring, gentle, loving and faithful Good Shepherd leads us by the still waters and to the green pastures of His Word. By faith, He takes our hands and leads us to where we need to be—with Him forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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